Radnor Monthly Meeting’s Responses to PYM Areas of Query (as input to PYM Continuing Sessions, Fall 2020)
Response to Concerns on Racism/Racial Equity
A few years ago, Radnor participated in several conversations related to whether to support the Black Lives Matter movement. These discussions deepened our understanding of the issues and brought us together as a Meeting in discerning to hang an outdoor banner supporting Black Lives Matter. Because some concerns were raised about merely stating that “Black Lives Matter”, the following was also added to the banner, in an effort to place its message in a larger context of Quaker tenets: “First let us see what Love can do” (Pennington). The banner was posted for more than a year and was eventually taken down, honoring the township regulations on temporary signage. After the death of George Floyd, our Peace and Social Concerns Committee raised the issue of rehanging the banner. Again, the full Meeting considered this action and came to unity to do so.
Radnor has also taken part in several online seminars designed to raise our awareness about racism. These seminars were led by Andrea Swinton, a diversity training professional. Andrea initially led a forum at Radnor and then welcomed our members/attenders to attend a series of three online conversations about race. These sessions were open to a few other Quaker meetings and to the public. Andrea has been moved by the spiritual grounding of our efforts and has become a regular attender at our First Day Meetings for Worship.
Also, one of our members who is on the Pendle Hill board has kept us informed about and encouraged us to attend PH events related to racism.
Radnor has also held a study group studying the book entitled Brown Girl Dreaming. In taking the step of becoming one of the founding congregations of our area’s Interfaith Hospitality Network (providing programming and shelter for temporarily homeless families), many Radnor members went outside their comfort zone to serve meals to and stay overnight with our hosts. Serving in these ways has greatly opened our eyes about the realities of the challenges confronting families from diverse situations and backgrounds. Five years ago, Radnor joined with St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Wayne and other nearby congregations to sponsor a refugee family from the Congo. We helped raise money, gather household items, drive family members to appointments, as well as provide moral support. That family is now successfully launched and living independently. While government programs and policies have cut off the flow of refugee families, Radnor members continue to be occasionally called upon to support individual refugees in our area.
In conclusion, we are proud of a recent specific example of an action that truly “made a difference” and, indeed, was a “direct action” versus a more passive action such as displaying a banner. Through one of our members, we became aware of a minority student who was struggling emotionally and academically after an incident in which she was unfairly targeted by local middle school authorities based on unfortunate stereotypes. Being at their wits end, her family gratefully accepted the support of Radnor members who spearheaded an initiative to obtain her admittance to Friends School Haverford and to raise money for her tuition. This young lady has successfully completed 7th and 8th grades at FSH, proving to be a valuable citizen. She and her family are now delighted that she is building on this first successful experience of Quaker education with the positive experience of enrolling and attending Friends’ Central School as a 9th grader. To our Meeting, this is the type of action which genuinely felt as if it met the “make a difference” criteria.
Finally, some members have exercised individual leadings where they reached out to minority neighbors to offer support on specific tasks such as ensuring rides to the polls, offering help regarding how to track mail-in ballots, etc. Radnor is challenged to add diversity to our Meeting because we live in a largely segregated, suburban Philadelphia area. It is an unfortunate historical fact that the racial diversity of Philadelphia’s Main Line is limited. In addition, we are attempting to be intentional about ensuring that any actions are likely to genuinely “make a difference”. We are not wanting to implement “gestures” which may not actually make a positive difference. An example might be putting an invitation to Radnor MFW in a West Philadelphia newspaper. At times such well-intended acts result in no results or even in inadvertently creating negative impacts: Do people perceive pandering? We are likely to be opposed to actions such as offering a “free lunch” or a bus ride to Radnor for this reason. We struggle about how to make a difference given our geographic makeup. Therefore, we are now focusing on step one: increasing our own awareness of racism and sensitivity to it, as stated in question one above. A challenge we face involves the question of how to support decreasing racism while finding actions which are truly spiritually grounded: How do we support our witness and actions to grow from a deep spiritual leading and how do we do this corporately?
Discernment on Climate Change Minute
PYM asked all Monthly Meetings for feedback on the following minute (under consideration for possible approval) which proposes that Philadelphia Yearly Meeting adopt a yearly-meeting-wide witness on climate change:
Climate Change Summary Minute
Guided by many Friends who have worked tirelessly over the past fifty years, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting adopts a yearly meeting-wide witness on climate change. This corporate ministry is broad and encompasses the work and witness of many people, communities, monthly meetings and organizations within the wider network of Quakers in the Philadelphia region and beyond. A yearly meeting-wide witness on climate change seeks to raise up as many different voices and actions as possible to make progress on the environmental and societal issues at the heart of the climate crisis.
Radnor Response to PYM Climate Change Minute
Radnor Meeting approved a similar minute on Climate Change early in 2020 (see below). This minute is clearly in favor of PYM adopting corporate witness to the issue of Climate Change.
On October 11, 2020, Radnor Meeting, feeling under the weight of this minute, decided to take action and approved starting a project to make the Meeting and related Meeting activities carbon neutral. Radnor Friends also discussed the minute sent to us from PYM Annual Sessions. The corporate feedback from Radnor Meeting is the following:
• The language seems vague, with little accountability for those parties primarily responsible for the Climate Crisis, or recognition of the impact Climate Change is having on those least able to respond to it. Missing also is recognition that these impacts are a result of systemic racism.
• Radnor Meeting appreciated recognition that many have worked on this issue for 50 years.
Radnor Meeting’s Approved Minute
In 2018, Climate Scientists told the United Nations that the effects of climate change were occurring much sooner than expected. Unless carbon emissions are cut by 50% in about a dozen years, i.e., about 2030, and then to net-zero by about 2050, humanity will probably experience a global climate catastrophe of incalculable severity before the end of this century.
We know that while all will suffer, the most vulnerable populations will face certain calamity. Institutional racism has already harmed communities of color, as manifested in part in environmental injustice. Continued exploitation of the earth’s resources has already caused mass extinctions and put life as we know it at risk. Conflicts due to rising sea levels, food insecurity, water scarcity, and mass migrations are already causing horrific injustice and threatening world peace.
For these reasons, our historic testimonies for peace, justice, integrity and stewardship call us to make climate justice a clear and urgent concern for corporate witness, and for all manifestations of our Yearly Meeting to take immediate and resolute action.
Yours in peace,
Bonalyn Mosteller – Clerk, Radnor Meeting
Doug Ross—Author of the responses on racism
Steve Olshevski—Author of the responses on climate change